If you have a child who suffers with ADHD or ADD, or are an adult with this challenge, this report will provide you with powerful insights that will help you take control of this problem without expensive or dangerous medications.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), ADHD is diagnosed in the U.S. in an estimated 8 percent of children aged 4-17, and in about 3 percent to 4.4 percent of adults.[i]
The average age of onset is usually just 7 years old, although symptoms may appear in infancy.
Of concern is a 2008 study that found the percentage of older children diagnosed with ADHD is rising by about 4 percent each year.[ii]
Some experts feel the increase could be due to doctors taking a greater interest in the possibility of ADHD in older kids with concentration problems, but I think you’ll find it interesting that this latest trend also coincides with an increased marketing of ADHD drugs to teens and adults!
What Exactly is ADD/ADHD?
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) involve a cluster of symptoms that include inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsive behaviors. Often, children with the conditions may struggle in school and with relationships, and suffer from low self-esteem.
The term ADD has largely been replaced with ADHD, as it describes two of the most common symptoms of the condition, inattention and hyperactive-impulsive behavior.
Most children display a combination of these two traits, and may show the following symptoms:[iii]
- Frequent fidgeting or squirming
- Feels restless or often runs and climbs excessively, or leaves his or her seat in the classroom when not appropriate
- Has difficulty playing quietly
- Talks excessively, interrupts often, and may blurt out answers to questions at inappropriate times
- Always seems on the go
- Has difficulty waiting his or her turn
As you can see, many of these “symptoms” could describe most all children at one time or another. As such, those who display these symptoms at school but not at home or with friends are not considered to have ADHD. Likewise, with children who display symptoms at home but not at school.
Only children who struggle with inattention and hyperactive or impulsive behaviors around the clock are deemed to have ADHD, and if not dealt with properly the symptoms can continue well into adulthood.
What Causes ADD/ADHD?
Many parents and spouses are at their wit’s ends trying to cope with the relentless and upsetting behaviors caused by their unhappy, troubled children, teens, or adults. Adding to their frustration is not knowing the cause of the symptoms, nor what to do to fix them. It is no surprise that those dealing with ADD/ADHD-affected individuals can become desperate for answers.
But most experts are just as perplexed as everyone else.
One theory behind ADD/ADHD is that it is caused, at least in part, by inherited genetic factors. Some scientists are now aiming their research at finding genes that may make a person more susceptible to this disorder.[iv]
Another plausible theory is exposure to environmental toxins.
A 2006 study found that a mother's use of cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs during pregnancy could increase the risk for ADHD. [v]
That same research also suggested that exposure to lead may cause ADHD symptoms, and the industrial chemicals polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have also been named as a potential culprit.
But as usual, few are focusing on nutrition, which I believe is a key factor. We know food choices of most children -- and adults -- today are incredibly poor. How can you possibly expect a child to have normal behavior if he is fed refined grains, sugars, processed foods loaded with chemicals, and juices and sodas instead of pure water?
Add to that the substandard amount of vegetables in most people’s diets -- up to 90 percent fewer than what is required for health -- an overabundance of omega-6 fats and a deficiency of omega-3 fats, and you can see a real pattern emerging.
If you are a nutritionist or dietician, you will know this is a recipe for disaster. You simply cannot have a child or adult with a healthy functioning brain, when the proper ingredients to develop or maintain a healthy brain are not being given!
Renowned children's health expert Dr. Lendon Smith, who passed away several years ago, was really one of the pioneer physicians in this area, and he had been effectively using nutrition and dietary interventions to help relieve the symptoms of ADHD for decades.
He realized that drugs like Ritalin were not the answer for ADHD right from the start. As he said in an interview I did with him back in 2001:[vi]
“It is too bad psychiatrists have failed to recognize that if a stimulant acts as a calming agent, then they must shore up the flagging enzyme that is under-producing. This all fits with the damage that we have done to the top soil. It is washing and blowing away and with it, the magnesium. The psychiatrists have made ADD/ADHD a disease, like pneumonia.
It is actually a syndrome due to a defect in the screening device of the brain. I understand that since they had made it a disease they can be compensated for treating it. Another rule they have used: 'If the Ritalin works, they need it.' Sort of like a Ritalin deficiency.”
According to Dr. Smith, stimulant drugs like Ritalin have a calming effect in children with ADHD because there is not enough norepinephrine, a hormone and neurotransmitter, in their limbic system, the part of the brain that is supposed to filter out unimportant stimuli.
Because of this, one common denominator that Dr. Smith often used as a diagnostic criterion for ADHD was being extremely ticklish.
In other words, they were unable to disregard unimportant stimuli.
Some people may also have ADD/ADHD symptoms due to allergic reactions to chemicals in the environment or their food. Chemically-sensitive people who have their clothing washed with perfumed and chemical-laden soap that they not only breathe in, but that their skin comes into close contact with daily, could likely have ADHD symptoms.
In addition, a number of people may be allergic to the chemicals that are added to clothes in the manufacturing process, such as permanent press or stain-resistant products. These too may initiate ADHD or ADHD-like reactions in sensitive individuals.
Would You Give Your Child Cocaine?
For years, drug companies have been churning out various medications to try to stem this growing epidemic.
Ritalin®, Concerta®, Adderall®, and Strattera® have been the main drugs of choice.
These products, with the exception of Strattera®, all contain different formulations of methylphenidate, a powerful psychostimulant drug that is in the same class as cocaine.
In fact, a 2009 study shows that methylphenidate behaves similarly to addictive drugs like cocaine.
Investigators, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, showed that methylphenidate can cause physical changes in neurons in the “reward” regions of mouse brains -- and in some instances, these effects overlapped with those of cocaine.
The researchers exposed mice to two weeks of daily injections of cocaine or methylphenidate, after which reward areas of the brain were examined for changes that have been implicated in the long-term actions of addictive drugs.
Both drugs showed evidence of addiction in the brain, although each drug’s pattern of expression was unique. Interestingly, in some cases, methylphenidate produced even greater effects than cocaine![vii]
Ritalin has the same pharmacological profile as cocaine, yet its effects are even more potent. Using brain imaging, scientists have found that, in pill form, Ritalin occupies more of the neural transporters responsible for the “high” experienced by addicts than smoked or injected cocaine!
Over One Billion Spent on Ritalin
Strattera®, which contains atomoxetine hydrochloride, carries the warning that use has been linked to an increased probability of suicidal thoughts and behavior.[viii]
Possible side effects include nausea, constipation, dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, hives, problems urinating, problems sleeping, liver problems, blood pressure problems, and heart irregularities.[ix]
Meanwhile, a 2006 U.S. statistical report showed 3 million prescriptions being written for ADHD drugs every month -- 2 million for children, and 1 million for adults.[x]
This means millions of people daily are becoming legalized -- and most likely addicted -- drug users!
What a great boon to drug companies, who clearly love to see their profits soaring and who don’t appear to care that one of the “side effects” of their greed are the millions of people who become physically dependent on their products, while the symptoms of their disease fail to improve.
Matthew Emmens, chief executive of Shire Pharmaceuticals (a British manufacturer of Adderall®, a drug mix of Ritalin® and amphetamines) stated in a 2005 article, "The adult market is three times the size of the $1.14 billion-a-year children's market, and is ripe and moving in the right direction."[xi]
This should be a telling statement for anyone under an illusion that these drugs are created for the betterment of society.
A Shocking Number of U.S. Kids are Taking These Dangerous Drugs
Every year there are 6 million prescriptions filled for Ritalin. U.S. pharmacists distribute five times more Ritalin than the rest of the world combined, according to Dr. Samuel Epstein’s Cancer Prevention Coalition (CPC).
In fact, CPC states that the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board has on two recent occasions written to U.S. officials expressing concern about the six-fold increase in Ritalin usage since 1990.[xii]
In all, 60 percent to 90 percent of U.S. kids with attention deficit disorders are prescribed this powerful drug, which amounts to 3 percent to 5 percent of U.S. children and teens on Ritalin.
By definition, Ritalin stimulates your central nervous system, leading to side effects such as:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Increased body temperature
- Increased alertness
- Suppressed appetite
Further, when taken over a period of years, as Ritalin often is, the drug may cause even more severe health problems such as cancer.
A small University of Texas study conducted in 2005 showed damage to the chromosomes of 12 children who had taken Ritalin for just three months.[xiii]
The potential of Ritalin to cause cancer has been known for much longer though, as back in 1993 The National Toxicology Program released results that showed feeding mice Ritalin at levels close to those routinely prescribed to children induced liver tumors, including rare and highly malignant cancers.
Meanwhile, while researchers used to believe that Ritalin was a short-acting drug, studies have shown it has the potential for causing long-lasting changes in brain cell structure and function and may lead to stunted growth.[xiv]
Ritalin is the drug prescribed most often to kids with ADHD, but again there are others, with equally disturbing risks. ADHD drugs other than Ritalin have been linked to hallucinations, heart attack, stroke, increased aggressive behavior, suicide, and even sudden death!
Many People May Be Misdiagnosed
ADD/ADHD can be hard to diagnose due to its many diverse symptoms, leaving it open to much interpretation -- or misinterpretation. That means that countless numbers of children or adolescents who could simply be bored or immature may be misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD.
For example, a teacher in charge of 2 to 4 year olds in a daycare setting may ignore a particular child’s developmental needs in preference to maintaining a prescribed level of classroom conformity. Children who “act up” are seen as problems that need to be resolved.
With the advent of drugs such as Ritalin® and Concerta®, it is easier than ever for a teacher, caregiver, or doctor to decide that a merely restless, distracted student requires “drug intervention” to solve their behavior issues.
Few caregivers know enough to challenge a doctor’s diagnosis even if it were wrong, and even fewer want to spend additional time trying to solve the complex problems of a hyperactive or otherwise bothersome child.
That's when suppressant drugs can be inappropriately prescribed and other therapies overlooked.
Are These Drugs Helping or Hurting?
In one study, after three years of treatment the researchers concluded that drugs such as Concerta® and Ritalin® worked no better than behavioral therapy. In fact, the co-author of the latest study, Professor William Pelham, said there was no indication these drugs worked any better than “nothing” in the long term.[xv]
Further, there is a growing body of evidence showing these drugs are more than just ineffective -- they are harmful.
The long list of side effects from taking them include stomach problems, insomnia, fever, aggression, restlessness, high blood pressure, headaches, and irregular heartbeat, to name just a few.
And as I mentioned earlier, one Florida doctor, Dr. Nelson Mane, is warning that long-term use of ADHD drugs can stunt growth. The research study included children, those in late adolescence, and some adults.
The height deficit of research participants during the first 1-3 years of treatment amounted to about 1 centimeter, or .39 of an inch per year.[xvi]
Dr. Mane adds that the American Heart Association also recommends each child get a heart check prior to being put on drugs like Concerta and Ritalin. He said there had been reports of sudden death and heart problems from the drugs in Canada.
And even in the U.S. such deaths have been occurring.
A Michigan 14-year-old named Matthew died suddenly on March 21, 2000. According to Dr. Ljuba Dragovic, chief pathologist of Oakland County, Michigan, upon autopsy Matthew's heart showed clear signs of small vessel damage caused from the use of methylphenidate (Ritalin).
The cause of death stated on Matthew’s death certificate? "From long-term use of methylphenidate, Ritalin®."[xvii]
In 2006, the FDA recommended a “black box” warning on Concerta® and Ritalin®, among other drugs, after the public release of a 2004 FDA report stating that 25 people taking ADHD drugs between 1999 and 2003 had died suddenly, and 43 had experienced serious cardiovascular events including strokes, cardiac arrest, and heart palpitations. Children accounted for 19 of the deaths and 26 of the nonfatal cardiovascular conditions.[xviii] Statistics also showed 51 total deaths from patients taking Ritalin® or related medications since 1999.[xix]
In the U.K., nine children reportedly died in 2005 after taking ADHD drugs.[xx]
Yet despite the utter failure of these drugs, medical and press reports from drug companies remain glowing and positive.
In contrast, the vast number of children and adults being harmed, perhaps for life, by the unnecessary drugging of this condition is truly heartbreaking.
As Dr. Smith said:
“Maybe, a small percent, like 10 percent or less of 'hyper' children, may need the drugs to calm them, mainly because they have had some sort of injury to their nervous system that diet will not touch.
Many of those, however, can be still be salvaged with neurodevelopment therapy. I have seen the work of those therapists and know of the miracles they can perform. Homeopathy is a well-known and sometimes surprising type of treatment that has saved many of these "throw away" children before they give up and go into crime for their kicks.
There are so many side effects from the stimulant drugs, I would recommend that diet modifications ... should be tried first. These children realize they are not so bad and will even start to smile and laugh.[xxi]”
A Natural Way to Calm: Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats
There are a number of simple, safe, and healthy options to help calm a physically or mentally restless child or adult. While some people are reluctant to adopt unproven alternatives, the great news is that scientific proof supports many non-drug, non-invasive alternatives.
For example, research by the University of Adelaide in Australia confirmed that omega-3 fat improves the symptoms of ADHD without any of the side effects of drugs like Ritalin® and Concerta® -- and more effectively, at that![xxii]
In the study, they gave 130 children with ADHD, between the ages of 7 and 12, omega-3 fats daily. The children’s behavior improved dramatically within three months.
They also found that:
- After seven months, the children were not as restless and showed improvements at school
- Improvements in concentration and attention improved by one-third
- After 15 weeks, 30-40 percent of the children taking fish oil had improvements
- After 30 weeks, 40-50 percent improved
Children taking placebo capsules were later switched to omega-3 fats, and subsequently also experienced improved behavior.
Improvements were still being seen after the study ended, which suggests that animal-based omega-3 fats may have long-term effects.
There are a number of different options for animal-based omega-3 fats.
I used to recommend taking fish oil (and I still do in some cases), but aside from the potential of mercury contamination in the oils, both fish oil have other drawbacks, which I’ve covered in more depth in previous articles.
With fish oil you have the issues of over-fishing, along with it being low in antioxidant content (and by consuming fish oil you actually increase your need for even more antioxidant protection).
And as for cod liver oil, I’ve recently updated my recommendations and am now advising against it in most cases, as in addition to omega-3, modern cod liver oil also contains vitamins A and D, but in inverse, and potentially unhealthy, ratios to each other.
Many natural health advocates have started promoting green mussel extracts as the latest and greatest source of healthy omega-3’s.
Some are even going so far as to try to convince you that you’re starving wildlife if you’re taking krill oil supplements, in an effort to get you to make the switch to mussels. I recently wrote about the flawed assumptions that led to that misguided warning.
In my view, krill oil is clearly your best option. It contains essential EPA and DHA in a double chain phospholipid structure that makes it far more absorbable than the omega-3s in fish oil.
Krill oil also contains vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D and canthaxanthin, which is a potent antioxidant. Research has shown the antioxidant potency of krill oil is, in terms of ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorptance Capacity) values, 48 times more potent than fish oil.[xxiii]
Other Powerful Tools to Virtually Eliminate ADHD!
Dietary interventions can be incredibly effective in helping alleviate the symptoms of ADHD. As Dr. Smith said in our interview:
“When I became familiar with nutrition, I found that if a stimulant drug had a calming effect [as is the case with ADHD], it meant that the child did not have enough norepinephrine (a stimulant) in his limbic system, and that I could help with a good diet and some supplements which should shore up the enzymes in his brain that make that neurotransmitter.
If he had ever had ear infections, I stopped his dairy products, and added calcium -- 1,000 mg -- usually at bedtime.
If he was ticklish, I added magnesium -- 500 mg is usually safe for a child or adult.
If he was a "Jekyll and Hyde" type of person (severe mood swings), he had intermittent low blood sugar and he needed to nibble all day to keep his blood sugar up. Or at least eat some additional protein and fewer carbohydrates for better maintenance of blood sugar levels. No sugar or white-flour junk food.
If he could not remember his dreams, he needed vitamin B6 -- 50 mg is about right.
If he ever had eczema or dry scaly skin, he is to take the essential fatty acids [omega-3 fats like krill oil].
If he had dark circles under his eyes, he was eating something to which he is sensitive. Milk, wheat, corn, chocolate, eggs, citrus. Usually it is his favorite food.”
So in place of harmful drugs, if you are a parent of a child with ADHD, or struggle with the symptoms yourself, these are excellent pearls of wisdom to try out.
The following powerful dietary and lifestyle suggestions can be extremely helpful as well:
- Eliminate most grains and sugars from your/their diet. Grains and sugars both tend to cause allergies in sensitive individuals. Even organic, whole grain can cause problems in many children so it would be wise to give them a grain holiday and see if their behavior improves.
- Replace soft drinks, fruit juices and pasteurized milk with pure, clean water.
- Increase omega-3 fats by taking an effective form of omega-3 oil. Again krill oil is my favorite because it contains a range of antioxidants, andthe antioxidant potency of krill oil is, in terms of ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorptance Capacity) values, 48 times more potent than fish oil.[xxiv]
- Minimize your use of nearly all processed fats, especially trans fats as they disrupt nerve cell intercommunication.
- Avoid all processed foods, especially those containing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, which may trigger or worsen symptoms.
- Clear your house of dangerous pesticides and other commercial chemicals. Pesticide exposure has been linked with ADHD. [xxv]
- Avoid commercial washing detergents and cleaning products used on clothes, and replace them with naturally derived cleaning products with no added perfumes, softeners, etc.
Also, be cautious and read labels carefully when you buy clothing for someone diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Chemicals are often added to fabrics in the manufacturing process that can cause allergic reactions similar to ADD/ADHD symptoms. The person’s symptoms may even subside after the clothing is out of contact with their skin.
After one hyperactive, very difficult 5-year-old had his clothes gently removed, he was instantly a calmer child, sucking his thumb and going to sleep in his mother’s lap! He bore no resemblance to the angry and aggressive child that had been previously wreaking havoc all over the room.[xxvi]
This is clearly an allergic reaction, not ADD/ADHD, when symptoms are only present when clothing containing chemicals or even soap residue, is touching the skin. Or likewise when symptoms arise after eating a certain food or food group (such as pasteurized dairy).
For further information in this area it would be wise to review some of the many books that Dr. Doris Rapp has written on this subject. She is a pediatric allergist who has specialized in the treatment of ADD and has had success with many thousands of patients. She is also one of my early mentors.
Additional Helpful Techniques
Here are some useful suggestions to further help you in improving many ADD/ADHD symptoms:
- Spend more time in nature.
Researchers have found that exposing ADHD children to nature is an affordable, healthy way of controlling symptoms.[xxvii]
- Investigate sensory therapy and emotional wellness tools.
Instead of looking for a quick fix, encourage ADHD sufferers to talk, and find out what emotions are causing issues. You may want to consider the energy tapping techniques to improve emotional coping and healing.
If your child or other loved one has been on drugs for an ADD/ADHD disorder, have the drugs really solved their problems, or only made them worse? Perhaps you are reading this because the drugs have had disappointing results. It’s never too late to switch to natural therapies, and once you have, you will be very glad you did.
A good portion of the drugs that make up the multi-billion dollar industry of pharmaceuticals are simply doing nothing, and many are making us sicker. Unfortunately, most of the population has been brainwashed to believe that taking a pill will make them feel better. But once you become dependent on a drug, you then require it just to feel normal.
While it may not always be easy to choose the drug-free approach for problems like ADD/ADHD, using natural therapies will ensure that you treat the whole person rather than just a set of symptoms.
Most cases of ADHD will resolve naturally when you follow the recommendations above. So rather than relying on a dangerous quick-fix like Ritalin, teach your child that they can excel in life, and overcome their symptoms, by taking control of their health.
Remember to be patient when making these dietary and lifestyle changes, as the beneficial effects can take days or even a few weeks to kick in. But in exchange for a bit of patience, you will not only be avoiding the dangerous side effects of drugs, but will be assisting in the natural and healthy healing process that nature intended.
[xv] Drugs are Not the Answer to ADHD,
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2007/12/01/drugs-are-not-the-answer-for-adhd.aspx, (Accessed February 23, 2009)
[xvi] Free Press Release.com, December 2008, ADHD:Tampa Dr. Nelson Mane Warns, ‘Are you aware that ADHD medication may stunt your child’s growth?’, http://www.free-press-release.com/news/200812/1229706535.html, (Accessed February 23, 2009)
[xvii] Death from Ritalin: The Truth Behind ADHD, http://www.ritalindeath.com/, (Accessed February 23, 2009)